I’m scared of lots of things.
I’m scared of looking into a mirror at night time. I’m scared of driving on the motorway. I’m scared of running alone too early in the morning, of accidentally eating something poisonous, of brain tumours and bowel cancer and heart attacks. I’m scared that my loved ones will die unexpectedly. I either check that my children are still breathing about 10 times (not exaggerating) in the night, or I have to consciously talk myself out of doing so. My husband takes a couple of trips abroad each year, and I don’t sleep for the duration of his flight; the fear that it will crash or go missing is too strong, so I have to spend the entire time watching its path on flight-tracking software.
My fears feel foolish and I don’t like admitting to them. I’m not very patient with myself around things I perceive as childish and illogical. It doesn’t do anything to help with the feelings, of course, and my frustrations and internal criticism possibly aggravate those anxious, scared parts of me.
So, here I am, today, talking about it a little bit. Confessing to this page all the numerous, silly things that scare me. If I heard the list from someone else I’d feel very secure that there was no real need to worry about any of it, and I’d offer that type of reassurance that isn’t actually all that reassuring. Statistics. I’d like to take refuge in statistics, but a 0.0001% chance means nothing to the person it actually happens to. To them it’s all 100% all of the time.
I spend some portion of my day, every day – and a larger portion of the quiet pre-sleep night time – worrying about my health and impending death, a death that I’m convinced could be avoided if only I remain vigilant enough. Being vigilant mostly involves not sleeping. Analysing my heart rate. Googling symptoms – not in order to find more things to worry about, but rather to find some reassurance. What are the non-fatal causes of chest pain? What’s a source of chronic bowel spasms that I can have and still live past 100?
If I’m not worrying about my own imminent demise, I’m worrying about loved ones and theirs. Life seems so fragile in the face of its value. Sure, there’s a statistical improbability that any of us will just drop dead on any given day, but when that non-zero probability edge case comes through?
It takes EVERYthing.
I don’t place a lesser value on my life than those of my loved ones, because if I’m not alive to enjoy them, what do I know? All the same, there is the tiniest nugget of reassurance in thinking that – after a long, aware and pain-free life, with the latter days spent mostly in the comfort of my robot body – my children and their progeny will exist. Possibly forever.
It’s silly really, because after a generation or four, I’m probably going to be no more related to the humans in my direct line of descent than many of the other humans running around the place. And all the same, it’s reassuring. Maybe it’s even more the culture that we pass on than the genetics. A feeling that something of ourselves has been pushed into the future, using our offspring as a vehicle.
Yes, reassuring. But then I think of my parents and how much of their culture I’ve rejected. It feels like the vast majority of my childhood is not something that I’d want to reproduce for my own children. Why would I assume that they’ll want to pass on what I’ve given to them?
Of course, I have enough arrogance to believe that I’m giving them a happier childhood than the one I had. That I’m doing a good parental job, and that they’re going to want to reproduce it in the future. With the children I’m already assuming they’ll want to have, they’ll be able to have.
Come to think of it, maybe the chances are better for immortality through a robot body.
Anyway, death fear. Anxiety. Worry about my legacy. Awareness that legacy doesn’t really mean anything in the long long run and wanting to just exist for as long as I want to exist. All of that mush swirls around in me pretty frequently. I see it personified as a kind of Anxious Turtle who clings onto my shoulder with little prickly claws and whispers his worries in my ear.
I’m not always super kind to Anxious Turtle – sometimes I want to pick him up and fling him across the room. But at least he’s trying to do something for me. I think he’s trying to remind me of how precious I find my life, and how much I value all that I have.
Seriously though, mirrors at night. Who the hell is that?